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  1. Sir Cecil
    January 25, 2014

    A lot of United supporters are in for a shock. Jose Mourinho does not get rid of players without good reason. Juan Mata is extremely skillful – great first touch, lovely weight of pass, speed of thought, a great eye for a through ball and a solid finisher. But. It’s a fact that with Mata in the side for the last two seasons, Chelsea finished lower, and more points behind the leaders, than at any time since before the Abramovich era. Two seasons, two lowest positions. Yet how could this be anything to do with Mata, who did so well he was voted player of the year twice in succession?

    Very simple really. The player is a highlights-reel specialist. Show the highlights of a Chelsea win and Mata will feature, with a neat pass, a clever flick or a firm finish. People remember that. They see it enough times and they think it’s the culmination of a game-load of brilliance. But the actuality is very different. You see, Mata plays for ten minutes of each half. The other 70 minutes of the game he is almost invisible. And it’s during that time that his team can lose games – or at least, more games than they should. This is the difference between a great like Zola and a luxury like Mata – neither would ever be described as a tackler or defensive-minded, but Zola would show energy and commitment for 90 minutes. Even with his smaller physique, Zola was stronger and braver than Mata. A loss of points would never be attributable to Zola slacking for the majority of a game. However, that’s not the case with Mata.

    But let’s not compare Mata to an old Chelsea man. Rather, think of Man Utd players like Giggs or Scholes. If they played with the lack of defensive responsibility, challenge and energy shown by Mata, one would undoubtedly say “What’s the matter with them? They must be carrying injuries”.

    Jumping forward, a comparison with other current midfielders shows the likes of Silva, Corzola, Cabaye, Oscar, Modric, Xavi, Iniesta and a host of other current creative midfield players as more committed than Mata and, as a result, providing more sustained skills throughout the duration of every game. Those non-Utd who know Mata’s fear of grazing himself in a tackle will be pleased it is Mata who has gone to Old Trafford rather than any of the aforementioned. Even when Mata stirs himself to trot back into a hotly-contested part of the field, he will do nothing when he gets there. No tackles, no determination. If the ball breaks to him, he has the skill to use it well and sharply, but if it breaks to an opponent, Mata will just watch it go by with not a trace of effort to put things right.
    This is why Mourinho wanted him out. And as far as Mourinho is concerned, he’s passed a problem on to Man. Utd, not a saviour.

    Needless to say, there will be a honeymoon period when Mata’s undoubted skill and vision woos his new audience. But that will soon dissipate if the rest of the team doesn’t cover for his deficiencies. He is a player who allows midfield opponents the same freedom he himself requires, which can be disastrous.

    Mata is not the only out-of-favour Chelsea player who flatters to deceive. Lukaku at Everton is a clumsy beast who is more of a potential Emile Heskey than a Drogba. But again, highlights of games show his power and golalscoring, so everyone believes he is a 90-minute nightmare for any defender. Fact is, the Everton supporters are now cottoning-on to his obvious deficiencies and it’s clear that Mourinho was quite right to farm him out rather than trusting him to lead the line for one of the top teams in the world.

    Mourinho will also be proven right in his ejection of Mata. He knows what he’s doing and United followers will come to see why Mata was allowed to join them without a glimmer of a fight to keep him. Yes, there will be initial excitement as fans initially experience the good side of Mata’s game in United’s colors, but the the whispers will soon follow, as his lack of 90-minute graft and his strong sense of self-preservation become obvious. This isn’t a case of “might be”. It’s a case of “this is how it is”. If Mata’s contributions could be changed for the better, Mourinho would have done it – just as he did with Joe Cole, Robben, even Lampard. But the Chelsea manager weighed up Mata and saw there was nothing that could be done. It’s either take it or leave it and what you see is what you get.

    Apparently, Man Utd like what they see and that’s what they’ve got. Mourinho wanted more.

    • Redrich
      January 26, 2014

      @Sir Cecil: I think I’ve read this before. You feel the need to repeat yourself because…. perhaps you have nothing else to say?
      Go back to whatever blueblog you came from, learn a few other populist lines of rationale and then give us new reasons why JoMo is your saviour and Lord!

    • Man Utd Jaluo
      January 27, 2014

      @Sir Cecil: Your argument doesn’t really MATA at this time, What MATAs for us is that we got MATA. Get it? We can argue all day long about this but it doesnt MATA, eg RVP is a proven game winner, he might disappear in a game for 89 Mins but deliver on the 1 Minute that counts and that my friend is how we won the league last season, now think of potential 3 game winners in 1 team. THIS IS MAAAAATA!!!

    • Man Utd Jaluo
      January 27, 2014

      @Sir Cecil: Your argument doesn’t really MATA at this time, What MATAs for us is that we got MATA. Get it? We can argue all day long about this but it doesnt MATA, eg RVP is a proven game winner, he might disappear in a game for 89 Mins but deliver on the 1 Minute that counts and that my friend is how we won the league last season, now think of potential 3 game winners in 1 team. THIS IS MAAAAATA!!!

    • Nick
      January 31, 2014

      @Sir Cecil: Wonderfully written, I share all of these sentiments. I would however argue that we could accommodate Mata if Moyes changed the system.

      Ironically he would not do it for Kagawa who in my opinion is a far better player but has not been allowed to shine in his best position. Moyes has played Kagawa in left midfield for all but one or two games and when he has been played centrally he has been hampered by the poor , Cleverley/ Fellaini axis. If he plays Mata LM then all of the frailties that Jose saw will be exposed

  2. Redrich
    January 26, 2014

    Agreed a little over excited and, agreed, a top notch signing.

    Mata is a great little player with tons of creative spirit. His worth to JoMo was far less because, lets face it, he demands total and absolute control over his sides for his philosophies to work. Mata was stymied by Mourinho and was unable to adapt to that kind of rigid style of play.
    It was a good piece of business by Chelsea (37m, wow!), it liberated Juan Mata and it gave us some much needed talent and creativity.

    All in all, I’d say it was a good transfer, period.

  3. Anon
    January 26, 2014

    @ Sir Cecil: Wow, you should become a
    Soothsayer mate… :) What a nice way to welcome a world class player to the club.. I guess you would have thought along the same line when RVP came.. Give the man a chance, eh?

  4. Julian
    January 26, 2014

    The problem with Mata for Mourinho was his lack of pace and ability to track back and defend. I don’t think those are necessarily issues for what Mata is expected to do at United. We need someone to put his foot on the ball and create incisively. Mata can do that to great effect. He does need defensive cover though and perhaps Jones say, as a ball winner, would fulfil that role more adequately than Carrick does. Of course, Carrick’s qualities – passing and positional sense, as well as his experience, would be missed. I’m not sure someone like Jones, or Fellaini whom I have serious doubts about anyway, could develop Carrick’s skills in that regard. This is probably why Moyes is looking for another midfielder better equipped than the aforementioned to do that job.

    I’d like to think that Mata would be given a central role rather than out wide. Surely he’d be most effective playing in behind Rooney and RVP, when both are fit. Januzaj and Valencia could take up the wider positions. I must say, if Nani could regain his form and be more of a team player, I think he offers more than Valencia does in a more flexible midfield/attack.

    Despite the promise that Mata’s signature brings, Moyes must still have concerns about CB & LB as well as defensive MF. We do not look solid enough in central defence and Evra has seen his best days. He’s still good going forward but a defensively liability when he cant get back and there’s nobody to cover. We’re probably looking at three more signings before a greater measure of confidence in the team’s ability to achieve anything is restored.

    Great achievement that it is, Mata’s signing does not solve all the problems.

  5. Nick
    January 31, 2014

    Unbelievably well written and intelligent piece written by someone that has a deep understanding of the game and MUFC I agree with the comment “For Moyes, Mata is undoubtedly something of a slightly desperate and unimaginative panic buy.” However disagree about your assessment of Kagawa. It’s not a coincidence that his best performances and in fact MUFC’s has been when he played in his correct position at CAM. The match against BL stands out as an example. It is also ironic that our other best performance was when we played a genuine CAM (Mata) in his best position. SO the question is now that we have two world class 10’s at the club will Moyes move away from his tried and trusted 442.

  6. TheWebSlinger
    April 3, 2014

    For the loooooooooooonnnnnnggggggg comment at the top. You must be a Chelski or Jose fan boy! Yes your right Mata does not fit Jose the pragmatics style, but he did fit Mr Abrahamovich vision of progressive possession football, that he wanted upon buying Chelsea and what Jose failed at in every club he’s managed, including Real Madrid. If you think Luakaku wouldn’t have scored 20 goals for Chelsea in the league your mad! Better and more service as a decent striker you score more goals. He was farmed out like lots of very talented young players that Chelsea have snapped up in recent years. What happens to most? They get sold, loaned and never play for the parent club. That is one of the problems with rich/top teams. They buy all the best talent, even if it doesn’t fit their system/formation just so another top team don’t get them.

    I will agree though that for Jose systems Oscar is better, he’s a cheeky little tackler who shows you a run in without doing so and as soon as you look down at the ball to move it he is on you and a very adroit tackler, I think he will be very key for Brazil at the World Cup.

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